Three Poems by David Chorlton


There is a country whose people
grow thinner every newscast.
You take scissors to the map,
cut it out, fold it so small you can keep
it safe in your wallet
next to the photographs of family
and the credit card. A mountain

you know is being disassembled
and carried away in trucks, leaving
coyotes homeless
so you consider taking some in
but aren’t sure how they adapt
to city life. Fellow citizens pass you by

each day; limping, talking to themselves,
sobbing, each with broken parts
that need replacing. Sometimes one of them
stops and stares you in the face
suggesting everything that happens
is your fault. The pavement

breaks open, and a pit appears
for you to disappear into. Sometimes
it is the other way round, and you
accuse the weakest link
of treason or of laziness, as if everybody
had chosen who to be at birth

and could send for a conscience
from a catalogue. Call 1-800
and ask for one by size. Take advantage
of this week’s special offer
for imports, hand made in the orient
by underpaid employees
who sign their work by name.

When Cities Merge

As if it were a wish about to overflow
the cup of dreams
our local newspaper presents
a vision of two cities
crawling toward each other
until they meet
and cover what we used to call
the desert. The headline runs like the freeway

with everyone speeding
toward the inevitable pile-up
when helicopters circle overhead
instead of red-tailed hawks
and exhaust fumes occupy
the space in which dust devils
used to twirl the atmosphere

around their airy fingers. The horizon
will be rolled up and placed
in storage, the stars extinguished
and photographs of empty space
exhibited in a museum
devoted to the memory of those
who saw the future’s headlights
and stepped into the road.

The Houses of Night

Old houses rest with folded wings
on their foundations. They were never zoned
for zoning. Time
passes through them with a long sigh
while suburbia grows into the desert
they were built for. After being bought and sold
over and again, they begin
to feel like stocks and shares. The future
walked in without knocking
first at their doors.
They remember the silence before local TV news
began broadcasting fear
at ten o’clock each night, just as they rise
with the moths in a column
of nostalgia reaching
all the way to the moon.

David Chorlton has lived in Phoenix since 1978, when he moved from Europe. He will have a new book of old poems published by FutureCycle Press this year, Unmapped Worlds, and looks forward to when we can all have live readings again.